Planned Parenthood Really, Really Cares About Its Money

By David Goehring from San Francisco, CA, USA (Footsies) [CC BY 2.0 (]
By David Goehring from San Francisco, CA, USA (Footsies) [CC BY 2.0 (] (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, posted a letter yesterday. She announced that Planned Parenthood would no longer accept money for supplying the body parts of aborted babies to researchers, research facilities and their middlemen.

Personally, I’m not convinced. The reason I’m not convinced is my personal experience with Planned Parenthood and the impressions I formed of them during the time I was their political ally run counter to this action.

The truth is, Planned Parenthood cares about money. Planned Parenthood really cares about money.

I was a naive, true-believing 22-year-old from the wrong side of the river when I first encountered Planned Parenthood’s leadership. My piece of the situation was an ardent belief that (and I’m explaining this beyond what I would have said at that time) the sexual double standard and misogyny were such that abortion was absolutely necessary to save women’s lives and allow them to function as full human beings. I had a friend who almost died from an illegal abortion. I well remember the terror of this situation and how hard it was to get medical care to save her life.

That was a watershed event for me. The horror of it trumped every other consideration in my thinking about abortion for a long, long time. That’s how I came to advocate for legal abortion, how I came to be the Oklahoma Director for NARAL, and how I came to sit across the table with Planned Parenthood muckety-mucks from around the country at various banquets, seminars and such. Without exception, the first thing a member of Planned Parenthood’s governing boards would ask me was “How are you funded?” Meaning, how was Oklahoma NARAL funded.

This wasn’t something that came up casually, later in the conversation, and it didn’t happen once in a while. Every single conversation I ever remember having with them began with an introduction, followed by the question “How are you funded?”

I was, as I said, a young woman from an unsophisticated background. My father was a mechanic, and my mother was the weigh master at the Oklahoma National Stockyards. I grew up in a two-bedroom house with one bathroom and no central air and heat. My parents bought their first new car when I was 8 years old. My mother had a high school diploma, but Daddy’s education stopped at the 8thth grade, when he had to go to work to help support his family. Planned Parenthood’s national boards were governed by folks from an entirely different world than mine.

Despite all this, I wasn’t overawed by these Planned Parenthood people. But I was decidedly uncomfortable with them. In the world I was from, such blunt questions about funding were rude and crude. More than that, these people were cold in a way that I had never experienced from other people. Where I was from, folks could run red hot, or they could be soft and warm.

There was a coziness in my interpersonal interactions all my life until I began fooling with politics. The coldest people I met were the original founder of NARAL (who was shudderingly cold toward and contemptuous of the young women in the room the day I met him, all of whom were there to fight for legal abortion) and the Planned Parenthood execs. You could freeze ice on their backsides, as we Okies say.

They didn’t overawe me, but I found them off-putting and … odd. There was no purchase between me and them. The Planned Parenthood workers in the lower echelons did not hit me that way. But those at the top were cold, and the only thing they appeared to care about was money.

That’s why I’m not all that convinced by Cecile Richards’ self-serving letter announcing that Planned Parenthood will no longer take money for providing the body parts of the babies it has killed in abortion to research facilities. I don’t see Planned Parenthood giving up what former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson has said is a lucrative income stream.

If you want to see how seriously Planned Parenthood takes every single dime it can get its hands on, read Planned Bullyhood by Karen Handel. Big Pink was willing to destroy an organization dedicated to fighting breast cancer in order to keep what, given their overall budget, was a pittance in payments for services that weren’t useful to women to begin with.

According to reports of Abby Johnson’s testimony before a Texas State Senate Committee, the single Planned Parenthood facility that she ran made about $120,000/month selling the body parts of dead babies to researchers. She also said that clinic employees were paid bonuses for participating in this activity.

Do I believe that Planned Parenthood would voluntarily part with that much money? No. I don’t.

I want to emphasize that this is just a guess on my part, and that I have no knowledge of it. But, in my opinion, Planned Parenthood is probably going to continue receiving money for harvesting the body parts of dead babies and shipping them off to research facilities. I just don’t think it will be a direct quid pro quo as it has been it the past.

How would they do it? There are all sorts of ways, and I’m not going to speculate about the particulars. I only know that Planned Parenthood really cares about money. I know, because I’ve done it, that when you sit down to talk with them about how to “keep abortion safe and legal,” money is going to be the topic of conversation, right out of the gate. These are cold people. They are cold in a way that, despite all my years of working with them as their political ally, I never got accustomed to.

I read Cecile Richard’s letter and I encourage you to read it. But read it as I do; with an understanding that it is a public political statement, a gloss and a glam that hides as much truth as it says. Consider also the politics Ms Richards describes in the first paragraphs in which she details how laws allowing the sale of the body parts of murdered babies were passed in a “bi-partisan” effort. It’s so easy to do evil with the law; easier than sliding on the ice.

The most telling part of the letter is where she says that researchers and research facilities have asked Big Pink to continue sending them the baby body parts. If I was going to look for a new money stream, I would start with them.